LAW CHANGE

Constitutional changes won't help if we do not change social, cultural values

Good constitutions are only as good as the values and cultures that people hold dearly.

In Summary

• Well-known cultural orientations that are important in facilitating economic success

•  These social values and characteristics have been drawn from by Asian countries such as Singapore and China to create successful economies

President Uhuru Kenyatta reads the BBI report
BBI: President Uhuru Kenyatta reads the BBI report
Image: PSCU

As we ruminate over the next face of our constitutional dispensation as a nation, economic success remains our ultimate ambition in the Constitution amendment debate.

Kenya aims at 10 per cent per annum economic growth and self-sustenance by 2030. One of the issues identified as plaguing our economic take-off by the Building Bridges Initiative task force is the lack of national ethos and skewed cultural values.

The importance of values as a component of economic success and as an influence on social and political institutions is a reality if the Asian Tigers is anything to go by.

 

Well-known cultural orientations that are important in facilitating economic success according to empirical studies include the strength of family ties, the spirit of enterprise and hard work, self-reliance, a sense of individual responsibility and the disposition to save and act with prudence in utilisation of economic resources.

These social values and characteristics have been drawn from by Asian countries such as Singapore and China to create successful economies, keeping the size and cost of government down and limiting welfare spending and excessive regulation.

They must be the DNA of the nation if economic progress is to be realised according to Social Science Scholars worldwide. These policies that minimise welfare dependency, have in turn reinforced the social and cultural values, which have helped Asian economies to flourish according to former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher in her 2002 book Statecraft; Strategies for a Changing World.

Lee Kwan Yew, the former Prime Minister of Singapore, has also stated, "We Asians, have different social values. These different social values have made for fast growth." This point was further emphasised by Mahathir Mohamed, the Prime Minister of Malaysia, while explaining his country’s growth when he averred that, "Asian values are actually universal values and African people used to practice the same values until their leadership decided to deviate from them."

These pieces of empirical evidence provide for some truth. All constitutional amendments will be of zilch value if we do not fundamentally alter our social and cultural values orientation as a people.

We must revisit what our beliefs and values around the institution of family, our thoughts on hard work, grit and resilience, the spirit of self – reliance and independence

Good constitutions are only as good as the values and cultures that people hold dearly. Constitutional amendments are, therefore, not an end in themselves. We must revisit what our beliefs and values around the institution of family, our thoughts on hard work, grit and resilience, the spirit of self – reliance and independence as individuals

and as a nation and our sense of responsibility and the disposition to save and act with prudence in the utiliSation of economic resources.

Auscar Wambiya is a governance and development practitioner